Sandra A. Doron LCSW
I am the grandmother of toddlers, and I have heard that this is the most wonderful stage of grandparenthood. However, my toddler granddaughter often seems disinterested in seeing me. When she came over the other day, she did not even greet me, and refused to give me a kiss. On another day, when I first arrived at my son’s home, this same granddaughter told me to go home. I realize she is a toddler, but this latest incident bothered me the whole day. How should I have responded? I love this child beyond description, and I still have not gotten over the hurt.
Dear Hurt Grandmother:
You are not alone in your initial response to your granddaughter’s seemingly harsh instruction to go home. Your obvious love and devotion to her make it so hard to hear such a comment. However, it is important to keep in mind that toddlers are so easily distracted, and totally self-absorbed. Most likely, when your granddaughter came to visit you, she was upset by something that had just happened. Or, she may have been sleepy, or hungry, or, for other reasons, not focused to greet you in her usual way. It is important to remember that her “rejecting” comment probably had nothing to do with you or your relationship with her.
When you visited her home, and she told you to go home, were there other people there? Was she watching her favorite video? She may be entering a new stage of development, where she prefers to be with daddy or grandpa, or other male figures, and your presence made it difficult for her to have the one-on-one attention that she may unconsciously have wanted. If she tells you to go home again, you might ask her why she wants you to go home. If she does not answer, and she may not know herself , you could say something like: “You may not want me here right now, but you may want me here a little later to play hide-and-seek with you.” At this point, you could busy yourself with an unrelated task, until she solicits your attention. Your granddaughter may be aware, even at this young age, that she said something to hurt your feelings, especially, if you indicate she did hurt you, either by your verbal or non-verbal response. She may then become oversolicitous later on. Toddlers are already experiencing an emerging, healthy, active conscience, and she may even tell you later how much she loves you.
Hurt Grandmother, you can prevent further hurt and disappointment from your grandchildren, if you understand how wrapped up these small children are in themselves. When you are interacting with them, especially when no one else is around, they are totally dependent on you, and spontaneously return the love they feel from you. But during transitions, expecially when they just walk in your home, or you walk into theirs, they are probably undergoing anxiety as they must separate from their mommy or daddy, or are preoccupied with something else before seeing you. Similarly, grandparents often express disappointment when they phone their grandchildren, and their grandchildren do not want to talk to them. These little ones are totally preoccupied with whatever they are doing, and they do not have the skills to stop, suspend their involvement in their activities, and re-focus on you.
Here are some general recommendations that may help grandparents form a strong and close relationship with their grandchildren:
1. Avoid undermining the parents’ authority, even if you are sure you are right. 2. Reasonable rules are necessary for your grandchildren to feel loved and to feel safe. 3. Large and expensive gifts will not buy love. Your time and wholehearted interest in your grandchildren’s health and welfare and your willingness to do whatever it takes to get involved in their lives will reap the grand prize-- mutual love and affection. 4. Ask yourself from time to time if you are doing too much. You will earn respect from your grandchildren’s parents when you set limits on what you can do. 5. Find things that you love to do, and do them with your grandchildren. If you like to write poetry, or write letters, prepare age-appropriate “birthday” books for your grandchildren. Collect photos, and include them in their book. Encourage them to participate in the activities you enjoy, for example, cooking, baking, gardening, or washing the car. Share lots of family stories when they are old enough to understand. 6. Prepare yourself for later stages in your grandchildren’s lives, when they will be going to school, developing friendships, and will be more actively involved in life beyond their immediate family. Your relationship will evolve into a different relationship, one that may not seem as close and special, but one that will gradually transform into a more mature, and finally, adult relationship.
In conclusion, the knowledge, skills and attitudes that grandchildren learn from their grandparents often last a lifetime. A good relationship with grandparents can promote confidence and self-esteem. Love and affection by grandparents reinforce optimal growth of the child. Grandparents can be a source of wisdom and stability throughout the years, and play a vital role in their grandchildren’s lives.
This site was last updated 02/03/06